What is Suprose?

Welcome to Suprose.

Why Su-prose? "Su" in Sanskrit is a prefix for "good". This is a place where we will discuss and analyze prose (with a South Asian Connection) - that which is good, awesome, excellent, and maybe rant about prose that could be better.

Whether you love prose, are a prose expert, or want to learn more about prose, or to put it simply want to have anything to do with prose, this blog is for you.

Read, interact, enjoy and share...

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

On this bonus leap day, here is an inspiring and fabulous short film all book lovers should see. 

This film was the winner for the 2012 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film: 
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Holstee Manifesto

I came across this manifesto in an inspiring blog that I love to read, http://www.brainpickings.org/. This Holstee manifesto was part of an article titled "How To Find Your Purpose And Do What You Love."

If you are looking for creative inspiration, look nowhere else. Read this article and post this manifesto on the wall by your writing table.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Anita Desai Among The 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award Finalists

Suprose is excited to announce that Anita Desai is among the five 2012 PEN/Faulkner award finalists for her latest collection of three novellas The Artist Of Disappearance. 

A bio of Anita Desai from the British Council is here - 

See our exclusive Suprose: Tête-à-Tête With Anita Desai at this link -- http://suprose.blogspot.com/2012/01/tete-tete-with-anita-desai.html?spref=tw

A New York Times book review of "The Artist Of Disappearance" is at this link -- http://nyti.ms/rt6Rvj

From the AWP news release --

Five books of fiction published in 2011—Anita Desai’s The Artist of Disappearance, Russell Banks’s Lost Memory of Skin, Don DeLillo’s The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories, Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic, and Steven Millhauser’s We Others: New and Selected Stories—have been nominated as finalists for the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Award. Four of the nominees will receive $5,000 and the winner, to be announced on March 26, 2012, will receive $15,000.

Judges Marita Golden, Maureen Howard, and Steve Yarbrough selected the five finalists from a pool of nearly 350 novels and short story collections published by American writers in the U.S.

“The PEN/Faulkner judges have chosen an impressive list of books from those published in 2011, exciting in the range of stories selected, their integrity and excellence,” said Susan Richards Shreve, Co-Chairman of the PEN/Faulkner Board of Directors.

All five authors will be honored at an award ceremony at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. on May 5, 2012. If interested in attending, visithttp://www.penfaulkner. org to purchase tickets.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Roundtable -- How Tagore Influenced Me

Suprose asked 3 writers to share their thoughts on how Tagore has influenced them and inspired them. Suprose thanks these talented writers for their time and thoughts.

Sandip Roy is a journalist and writer based in Kolkatta -- 

"The pithiest comment I have heard about Rabindranath Tagore came from Mahasweta Devi, the grande dame of Bengali literature. At a panel about Rabindranath (and to Bengalis he is always Rabindranath, never Tagore) at the Kolkata Literary Meet this January, Mahasweta Devi was remembering meeting the poet in Shantiniketan when she was a little girl. “Tumi aar boi likho naa. Eto boi portey paari na (Please don’t write more books. I cannot read so many books),” she told the great man. The audience laughed uproariously. I did as well but with a twinge of guilt.

The first Bengali text book I read was by Rabindranath. I still remember the first poem I learned from it about the upstanding palm tree - “taal gaachh ek paaye daariye shob gaachh chhariye.” But I cannot recall having read any book by Rabindranath since leaving high school.  When I went to see an adaptation of his book Noukadubi at the cinemas last year, I had no clue how the storyline compared to the original.
My mother on the other hand asked me if I could get her a copy of his Shesher Kobita, a book she had read in the forties, from the Kolkata Book Fair. She recited the last line from memory. She was reminded of it again when she heard Vikram Seth say that his mother had originally named him Amit after the hero of Shesher Kobita, a rather “shenshitive type” Seth complained with a smile. His mother just smiled. She said she could not read Bengali but she really wanted to name her son Amit.

Rabindranath is so much part of the bloodstream of any Bengali, even an English-medium type like me, that it’s hard to say he does not influence us. We all grew up in his shadow. The Kolkata Literary Meet opened and ended with sessions on him, an almost mandatory nomoshkar on his 150th birth anniversary. Our traffic signals sing his songs - part of our chief minister's tireless attempts to Tagoreicize us.

But at the same time while he is omnipresent culturally, and many people still do scholarly work on him, a lot of people like me rarely take the time to read him as adults. Recently I met a young American who had come to Kolkata from Houston on some kind of a Tagore scholarship. I felt supremely disqualified to advise him on anything he should do Tagore-wise, convinced that he probably knew much more about the poet and his world view than I did.

What we do know though, even through casual osmosis, are the songs. They are truly part of our cultural DNA. My mother just watched a DVD of the legendary Rabindrasangeet singer Suchitra Mitra in her last years. Mitra’s voice was cracking, she could not hold the notes, but my mother was mesmerized, mouthing the lyrics, leaning forward to hear everything Mitra had to say about singing Krishnakali.

Rabindrasangeet is alive and well and flourishing. Last year middle class Bengal was glued to a television serial Gaaner Opaarey which was ostensibly about the battle between two schools of Rabindrasangeet – the Tagore-worshipping purists of Rabindrasangeet and the free-spirited experimenters who tried to “modernize” Rabi Thakurer gaan. But just as many people watched it for the songs as they did to find out what was going to happen in the love triangle of Gora, Pupe and Pradipto. I too love Rabindrasangeet but worry that its melody and beauty actually gets in the way of seriously reading Rabindranath. I rarely read his essays, think in depth about his thoughts on the life of an artist, or his views on citizenship and the nation state. It is easier to succumb to the seduction of Rabindrasangeet instead. We do not have to be challenged by Rabindranath. We can hum him instead.

A friend, a much more well-read Bengali than me, commented that Rabindranath had an inherent advantage over his next generation of writers. He did not need to have to read the enormous volume of work that he produced. Others who had to read his work probably had very little time to do much writing after that. “One can attribute the subsequent decline of Bengali literature to that,” he said.

That is an exaggeration and a joke. But the loss, for people like me, who grew up in the shadow of Rabindranath and yet read few of those volumes of work in any depth, is probably even more acute. We do not know even what we do not know." 

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award winning fiction writer based in Houston, TX --

"Tagore has truly been a great inspiration to me, influencing not only my writing but my life also. I grew up reading his books, listening to his plays on the radio, singing his songs. I most appreciate his sensitive depictions of women and girls, his ability to enter their psyche and tell their stories in their own voice. 

He was aware of their loneliness and disenfranchisement, their talents that were never encouraged to bloom, their love that could never find expression. His philosophical writings, urging us to nobility, molded me from my teenage years. 

My favorite quotation of his is the following:
I slept and dreamed that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy."

Nabina Das is a writer and poet based in Hyderabad, India --

"More than his songs and poetry, Rabindranath's humanism is a greater asset to us. We have inherited a person with a rare 'Weltanschauung'  whose ideas go beyond any thoughts on nationalism. While colonial India did see a Tagore who inspired a people against Western oppression, we in today's context see.a Tagore whose all-embracing philosophy reaches out to the world, especially when even today we have severe modes of discrimination practised all over -- in the West racism and militarism prevail; in India casteism and exploitation reign supreme.

Here's a poem I'd written for a poetry website in 2009, in response to a question about the poet who influenced us the most as writers. 

The influence of Tagore on writing is not just about lyric and metaphor and language, but about vision."

My Poetry Years- NABINA DAS

Little Boy Courage. The Old Banyan tree.

You came to me Rabindranath
(tough name for a kid)
as playmate Rabi

On a horseback through our
childish woods of romance
mixing the monsoon rains with quivers
of leaf floats making off to the Seven Seas
between homework of grammar and spelling.

Here, Rabi, hold my hand
write that stanza
I’d read even years later;
for every year, the drummers are out
(still underpaid, they now sell
fake branded accessories)
teasing absent-minded threaded autumn clouds.

Tall palm with winged-desire. Camelia my Girl. 

So who said he wore a solemn beard?
Not on my book cover!
Duping the elders we must remain green –
exactly the way he called out:
My little greens, my little young shoots
and those lines are still the first to ring
the way it once did
candle-blowing sleepiness on
a power-outed summer night.

Reading Tagore in bed, living inside
the crumpled book leaves
I frolicked with my playmate Rabi
soared above static and sleep
(father loved late-night Tchaikovsky
on old Radio Moscow)
also cried when
the Pilgrims drowned at sea.

Here, Rabi, take this line
let my first eyes remember that time

A drop of water. The leaf shivers.

(** The italics are references to Tagore's poetry, lines or titles...)

How did Tagore influence you? 

Please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section below. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Win A Copy Of Tina's Mouth By Keshni Kashyap

Want to win one of 3 copies of Keshni Kashyap's debut graphic novel ?

writeup of Tina's Mouth in the Wall Street Journal is here

The Suprose interview with Keshni Kashyap is here

Here is what you need to do --
  1. Click on this link
  2. Read the exclusive interview with Keshni Kashyap and 
  3. Leave a comment with your name and email by midnight  EST on Monday Feb 27th.
Please do not forget your email address, that is only way you will be contacted if you win.

Three people will be randomly selected on February 28th to win a copy of the book. You will be contacted via email.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Remembering Tagore 150 years after his birth... A Short Biography

2011 was Rabindranath Tagore's 10th birth anniversary. What better way to begin 2012 than to remember him and honor his works. Through the next few weeks Suprose will be posting a few pieces in memory of this iconic artist and writer.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is one of the most revered and talented writers and artists that India has produced. The first Asian Nobel Laureate to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for ‘Geetanjali’, a compilation of some of his poems. He was not only a poet but truly a multifaceted genius – a Writer, Painter, Philosopher, Educator, Businessman, Social Reformer and advocate of Indian Independence. He has composed over 2000+ songs popularlycalled ‘Rabindra-Sangeet’ (Tagore’s Songs) which still continue to top the charts. He is the only composer and lyricist in the world whose compositions are used as the National Anthems of 2 different nations, India and Bangladesh. 2011 is the 150th anniversary of his birth and it seems fitting to honor him and his work.

Here is a crisp biography of Tagore from the Nobel Prize Website --

Tagore at Age 12
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore, a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, which was a new religious sect in nineteenth-century Bengal and which attempted a revival of the ultimate monistic basis of Hinduism as laid down in the Upanishads
He was educated at home; and although at seventeen he was sent to England for formal schooling, he did not finish his studies there. In his mature years, in addition to his many-sided literary activities, he managed the family estates, a project which brought him into close touch with common humanity and increased his interest in social reforms. He also started an experimental school at Shantiniketan where he tried his Upanishadic ideals of education. 
From time to time he participated in the Indian nationalist movement, though in his own non-sentimental and visionary way; and Gandhi, the political father of modern India, was his devoted friend. Tagore was knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915, but within a few years he resigned the honour as a protest against British policies in India. 
Tagore With His Wife
Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship. 
For the world he became the voice of India's spiritual heritage; and for India, especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution. 
Although Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres, he was first of all a poet. 
Among his fifty and odd volumes of poetry are Manasi (1890) [The Ideal One], Sonar Tari (1894) [The Golden Boat], Gitanjali (1910) [Song Offerings], Gitimalya (1914) [Wreath of Songs], and Balaka(1916) [The Flight of Cranes]. The English renderings of his poetry, which include The Gardener (1913), Fruit-Gathering (1916), and The Fugitive (1921), do not generally correspond to particular volumes in the original Bengali; and in spite of its title, Gitanjali: Song Offerings(1912), the most acclaimed of them, contains poems from other works besides its namesake. 
Tagore and Einstein
Tagore's major plays are Raja (1910) [The King of the Dark Chamber], Dakghar (1912) [The Post Office], Achalayatan (1912) [The Immovable], Muktadhara (1922) [The Waterfall], andRaktakaravi (1926) [Red Oleanders]. 
He is the author of several volumes of short stories and a number of novels, among them Gora (1910), Ghare-Baire (1916) [The Home and the World], and Yogayog (1929) [Crosscurrents]. 
Tagore and Gandhi
Besides these, he wrote musical dramas, dance dramas, essays of all types, travel diaries,  and two autobiographies, one in his middle years and the other shortly before his death in 1941. Tagore also left numerous drawings and paintings, and songs for which he wrote the music himself. 
From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967,  Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1969
Suprose will be blogging several posts honoring Tagore, you can see all of them by clicking on the label Tagore.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tête-à-Tête With Keshni Kashyap

Many novels and memoirs talk about the coming of age concept, specifically those of South Asian American youngsters. This however is a different take on these coming of age books, in that it is a graphic novel with a highly comic edge. 

Now in her 30's, author Keshni Kashyap spent four years working on Tina's Mouth: An Existential Diary, with illustrator Mari Araki which was published in January 2012. The pair had to teach themselves the comic form while melding the book's substantial text with some 1,000 drawings. 

Raised in Los Angeles, Keshni Kashyap studied literature at Berkeley and film at UCLA. A filmmaker whose five short films have been screened in more than forty festivals around the world including a short film at the IAAC Film Festival (now NYIFF), Tina's Mouth is her first book and a collaboration with Los Angeles-based Japanese painter Mari Araki. 

Kashyap lives in New York and is at work on two new projects. Keshni also contributes occasionally to The Daily Beast. While on book tour, Kashyap was kind enough to take some time to do this interview with Suprose.

What motivated you to start writing? 
I guess I've always loved books, so maybe that's how I started.  But, I've also always written: poems, plays, screenplays.  Many that just sit on my desktop! My mom always encouraged me to write.  Before she was married, she worked for PEN International in India so she also had a love of books and literature.  She, like many Indians, is very particular about the English language and would spend a lot of time helping me use it properly.  She loves words and always encouraged me to love and respect words and use them carefully.  She's like Henry Higgins!  I'm really lucky to have had a mom like that.

Why a graphic novel versus others?
I studied directing in graduate school and wrote scripts and made short films.  When I finished my MFA, I became interested in graphic novels as a form of visual storytelling and started working on one with Mari who I met through an acquaintance.  It was just one project I was working on and it happened to sell to a publisher.  I always loved movies with voice-overs.  When done well, they can be so rich, almost novelistic.  I felt that you can do some really interesting things with images and words in a graphic novel. 

I found the story fascinating and very true to many Indian Americans growing up at the crossroads of two distinct cultures. How and why is this subject dear to you?
I just wanted to write specifically about what I knew.  So, since I grew up as an Indian American, that's what I was drawn to.  

What are your experiences growing up? Is the protagonist a reflection of you?
There are certainly autobiographical elements to the story, but I also made up many things. And, also, Mari obviously had a role in the protagonist's reflection.  We took from ideas, people, places we've observed over time.

What was the audience you wrote this book for? Do you anticipate/hope that the reach will be wider? 
Mari and I made the book with young adults in mind, though we were hoping to swing from young teen to 40.   It was written with accessibility in mind.

What did you read growing up?
In elementary school I remember absolutely loving the Anastasia Krupnik series by Lois Lowry, Madeleine L'Engle, Louisa May Alcott (I would read and re-read Little Women, Little Men, all of them!) and the Natalie Babbitt books The Search for Delicious and Tuck Everlasting.  I was also obsessed with Road Dahl (I think I still am), which may have given me an appreciation for absurdity at a young age.  I also, like all Indian kids, loved Amar Chitra Kathas. As I grew, I read more world literature, as my mom would read a lot of Indian fiction.  I was an English major in college, so I just read a lot.

What do you read now? What books would one find on your bedside table?   
Well, I just walked over to my bedside table.  There is Emerald City by Jennifer Egan, The Diary of Anais Nin, Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris and a graphic novel called the Harappa Files by an Indian comic book writer named Sarnath Bannerjee.  What I'll actually get through, I'm not sure.  A friend just gave me a trilogy of books by Roberto Bolano and I'm excited to get into those.
Who are some writers who inspired you to write?  
That's such a hard question to answer because it just depends.  Generally speaking, I get really inspired when I read Joan Didion.  I recently read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian and I found that incredibly inspiring.   But, those two writers couldn't be further from each other, so go figure! I also get inspired by movie writing.  Billy Wilder is a sure bet. Recently, I just loved Young Adult by Diablo Cody and thought that was a really wonderful, brave script.
Getting a book published is not easy. How did you go about getting it published?
Mari and I created a 60-page prototype which we then sent to a few agents and editors.  An editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt liked the prototype but wanted to publish it as a longer version.  I worked on an outline of the longer book, which she then bought after introducing me to an agent.

What is your advice for aspiring writers? Lessons learnt… wisdom imparted...

Well, I've only written one book and, that too, it's a graphic novel.  So, I'm not sure if I'm really the best person to give advice!  Just write every day, I guess.   That's what I try to do.  Sort problems and questions you might have out with your writing. 

What’s next for you? Any other novels/books you are working on?
Yes!  I'm working on a young adult novel.  I'm also working on two screenplays.  I'm also trying to pull some of those bits and pieces off of my desktop that are collecting dust and stitch them into something....